(March 24, 2016) – A verdict on the potential expansion of the National Hockey League is due ahead of the 2016 NHL Draft, according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. While there has been no 100% guaranteed-official format announced, the NHL has discussed a potential format for an Expansion Draft (full details here): Teams will protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender OR eight total skaters and one goaltender with the choice belonging to the team. It is unknown what will happen with players who have a No Movement Clause (NMC) or a No Trade Clause (NTC) in their contract, but the same report states that any player in their first or second year of professional play will be exempt. It also looks like each team would lose one player if there is one expansion team, or two if both Las Vegas and Quebec City are awarded teams.

For this 30-part #TFTPB series, we will be taking a closer look at each current NHL team and what players might be available to a new franchise at the conclusion of the 2016-17 NHL season. For the sake of simplicity, players with a NMC/NTC will not be made automatically exempt. All contract and salary information for this series is courtesy of NHLNumbers.com.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Calgary Flames.

 

FORWARDS:

Let’s get the easiest ones out of the way first. Johnny Gaudreau ($1.850 million) and Sean Monahan ($1.775 million) are both Restricted Free Agents this offseason and will obviously be protected. Sam Bennett ($3.194 million) will be done with his sophomore season and will also be guarded by Calgary. Youngster Brett Pollock will not need to be protected, since he will likely be finishing up his first year as a professional, which allows the Flames for some more flexibility.

Joe Colborne ($1.275 million) is an RFA on July 1, 2016, and has been one of the best-performing Flames forwards this season (behond only Gaudreau, Monahan and Mikael Backlund in points). Backlund ($3.575 million) will be just 28 years old in the summer of 2017 and will be entering the final year of his contract. Michael Frolik (who has a better PPG this season than any Flames forward not named Gaudreau or Monahan) will be 29 years old. Frolik ($4.300 million) will also have three years remaining on his deal.

As for non-current-NHL’ers, Hunter Shinkaruk ($1.076 million) would make for a good candidate for the seventh and final forward slot, though Morgan Klimchuk ($0.863 million) could make things difficult with a break out season in 2016-17.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

This is where the Flames have some difficult decisions to make. Dougie Hamilton ($5.750 million), T.J. Brodie ($4.650 million) and Mark Giordano ($4.020 million) are all signed long-term. Jyrki Jokipakka ($0.900 million) will be a pending RFA in 2017. Dennis Wideman ($5.250 million), Ladislav Smid ($3.500 million) and Deryk Engelland ($2.917 million) are all Unrestricted Free Agents in the summer of 2017. Will-be-20-year-old Oliver Kylington ($0.925 million) will have a year left on his contract, but will also need to be protected if the Flames want to ensure he remains in Calgary.

With Hamilton, Brodie, Jokipakka and Kylington being as young as they are, Giordano would seem the likely choice to be the first of that group of five to be exposed (Wideman, Smid and Engelland would be left out to be picked as well, especially given their will-be-UFA statuses). Narrowing it down beyond that is the most-difficult choice the Flames will have to make heading into the Expansion Draft.

 

GOALTENDERS:

The only goaltender the Flames have signed beyond this season is prospect Jon Gillies ($0.925 million), who is signed through 2017-18. Calgary has three UFA goaltenders coming up at the end of this season: Jonas Hiller ($4.500 million), Karri Ramo ($3.800 million) and Niklas Backstrom ($3.417 million). Joni Ortio ($0.600 million) is an RFA at season’s end. What Calgary decides to do this offseason when it comes to signing and re-signing goalies would seemingly decide who is and who isn’t protected heading into the Expansion Draft.

 

THOUGHTS:

Despite the depth at defense (or maybe because of it), it would be hard to imagine the Flames going for the 8/1 option. By going with the 7/3/1, Calgary would leave two of the team’s five highest-paid forwards (Matt Stajan, $3.125 million, and Lance Bouma, $2.200 million) unprotected, along with will-be-pending-free-agent Brandon Bollig ($1.250 million). Also available would be a couple of younger forwards, though with the talent at other positions that Calgary simply won’t be able to protect, none of them are likely to be taken in a one-expansion-team situation.

Giordano’s cap-friendly contract and not-too-old veteran abilities would make him an enticing pick for an expansion team, but the opportunity to draft a young defensemen (whichever out of Hamilton, Brodie, Jokipakka and Kylington is not protected) could also appeal to a new club, depending on what other defensemen are made available by other teams.

If the Flames did opt to go the 8/1 route, the likely-protected players would be: Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, Hamilton, Brodie, Jokipakka, Kylington and one out of the remaining forwards (Colborne, Backlund, Frolik). This only makes sense if the Flames are willing to sacrifice a younger forward to ensure that all four young defensemen are protected.

 

In the next edition of #TFTPB: NHL Expansion, we’ll be looking at the Carolina Hurricanes.